Proverb of the day: "It’s a bull,” I told him. “Milk it,” he insists

Ahram Online , Tuesday 21 Jul 2015

"It’s a bull,” I told him. “Milk it,” he insists


اقول له طور يقول احلبه

akoul loh tor yequl ehlebu

Translation: "It’s a bull,” i told him.  “Milk it,” he insists.

Meaning: This proverb, short and cutting, has something of the ancient Egyptian humour in it. It is about a bull, an ancient symbol, and the act of milking, a main source of livelihood in the countryside. The image is of an overlord demanding that his subjects do something that is physically impossible, or too stupid to contemplate. In all likelihood, the proverb may have once been used in the thirteenth to eighteenth centuries to complain about to the arbitrariness of Mamluk or Ottoman overlords.  It is still popular even today.

Source: Egyptian Proverbs, (Al-Ahram Center for Translation and Publishing, 1986) by Ahmed Taymour Pasha,

Translated by: Nabil Shawkat

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